Sound As Resistance
Opening reception: 5th August 2023 at 4 pm
Supported by: starch
The exhibition will continue to run from the 6th of August until the 3rd of September 2023
Opening hours: Thursday - Sunday from 12 pm - 6 pm
81 Tagore Lane, Tag A building, #02-11, Singapore 787502
Sound As Resistance
by Zul Mahmod
How quietly do I need to shout to be heard?
My work is not about words and not about silence. It is about sound. In many cases, we hear a lot of people using many words to express their frustration and anger but very few people pay attention so obviously words do not work. In my work, I am trying to find a different way to be heard or rather find a way for people to pay attention.
Originally, I wrote a manifesto based on social, artistic and philosophical concerns. It is expressed in my work through vibration. I do not want people to experience it through cognitive ways (thinking) but rather through the body (vibration) and sound. The objective of the work is the act of paying attention, but not to words and ideas. Because with understanding, there is an argument and that is a matter of opinion. One of the main issues we are facing in the world right now, in developed countries, is that we can’t agree to disagree, so we keep fighting, and people lose faith in the system, protesting as a form of resistance. No system is perfect. It might be the last imperfect of all.
My manifesto is not using words or ideas. It is the opposite. It is proposing a different approach. You need to pay attention in a different way and that is sound art. My sound installation replaces the words. The manifesto is a preparation and not the final piece. The words are actually to be understood through the vibrations and not the meaning. Through the experience of the work and not through reading the text. There is a cognitive approach to manifestos. People will think about the meaning. The purpose of the work is to pay attention and feel the vibration through the body.
Thanks to the references and because of the nature of my work, being socially and artistically engaged, I have arrived at the title Quiet Resistance Manifesto. There is poetic language in this work, and the best way to experience and engage with it is to be quiet, patient, and attentive. This also leads the audience to a state of awareness and self-reflection. The work is dependent on space based on the references and the experiments, the shape of the installation is different according to the context. The work Quiet Resistance Manifesto changes every time according to the space, and does a resistance movement. It calls for a different state of mind rather than thinking and acting, it is to stop, wait, listen and then reflect.
Here I am attempting to use a single sine wave of 40hz, acting as a secret code to transmit a network of noise using tweeters with bells suspended on multiple elastic bands. The activation of the tweeters will be based on morse code when it deciphers a text. The sound I am using in this installation is a translation of my conceptual statement into morse code. The manifestos are not meant to be revealed by being read, understood or heard but rather to be filtered through my sound installation and heard as quiet noise. This is a very meaningful illustration of my original concept. My work is dealing with sound art, my message will not include words. I wish to communicate a manifesto that is only expressed through sonic vibration. To perceive the sound, the audience needs to pay attention which is the key concept of the work.
They are a bit loud, so be quiet.
by Ian Woo
Serving as markers and indexical directions to the visitor, an arrangement of black speakers sits horizontal to the floor connected by cable attachments of varying thinness. The lines formed by the cables are mostly diagonal, suspended from the ceiling by attaching themselves to existing structures intended for architectural system functions. Along each line appear tiny vibrating bells, suggesting a signal-to-noise ratio generated from each of the speaker cones.
Every piece of equipment and component is shielded in matt black, uniformly framing our line of sight, alluding that the system warrants a form of attention removed from our everyday mode of observation. The sounds produced by the bells differ in frequency and texture depending on the scale and acoustic characteristics of each room. The audibility is based on the size of the bell, which resonates producing a soft, trebled buzz, akin to grains of rattling sand.
This quality of sound, suspended in time and space, is central to the art practice of the artist Zul Mahmod. His series of installations entitled ‘Quiet Resistance Manifesto’ serves as a process of experimentation sparked by his early interest in sounds developed in the culture of protest in South East Asia. However, since the governance of Singapore does not encourage a protest culture, he became intrigued by pursuing an art form that is subliminal, developing features that are at best discreet rather than obvious.
Influenced by musicians like the Onkyo Music Movement, the painter Agnes Martin and sound artist Bernhard Leitner as well as theorist Tamara Fakhoury, Zul developed minimal methods of construction, highlighting the use of black as a ‘sealant’ in his presentation and aesthetics. For Zul, the use of black has no social or symbolic notation except to provide the viewer with an enhanced feeling of concentration within a given space.
In my response to his work, I imagine the use of black as a return to ‘beginnings’, that of our first memory, which is vague and mystical. By the procedure and act of blacking out his equipment and materials, the emphasis of these once recognisable shapes and outlines becomes a form of nothingness. This essentially makes every one of these installations function as punctuations of negative space, creating a zone demarcated from the reality of the given space. If one were to think about this as a form of boundary and separation from the real world, then one could imagine this as a form of suspension with its gravity and time. Could this separation in turn reveal a secret world with its laws and language?
I sometimes view Zul’s constructs as an abstract satellite, sending out signals to all forms of life. This work is an ordering of noise, to communicate beyond what language can. We make art because there are limits to what language can express whether amongst parliament, family, friends, enemies, or strangers. Zul positions his work as an alternative to the chaotic, disagreements and miscommunications of the world. Imaginably, one can hear these pulsing codes as a rhythmic mantra for rest, prayer, or even a form of SOS. In essence, the work of Zul’s ‘quiet noise manifesto’ is idealistic. It is a form of faith in listening and paying attention. It is about changing our order of time and space to reach out, whether to someone out there, to each other, or to one’s reflexive self.
Ian Woo is an artist working in the language of abstraction. Influenced by forms of modernism, perceptual abstraction and the sound structures of music improvisation, his practice in paintings and drawings are characterised by a sense of gravitational and representational change.
His works are in the collections of institutions such as ABN AMRO, Singapore Art Museum, The Istana Singapore, The National Gallery Singapore, Suzhou Center, UBS, and the Mint Museum of Craft & Design, USA.
A Quiet Resistance
by Cedric van Eenoo, Ph.D.
As information, images, and noise dominate our everyday life, one artist dares to challenge the status quo. But he is not doing so by presenting himself as an activist, an influencer, or an advocate of a particular movement. Instead, Zul Mahmod, a visionary artist with an unwavering dedication to truthfulness, humbly invites the audience to explore the realm of his latest artwork: Quiet Resistance Manifesto. In the midst of environmental, political, and social troubles, he creates a one-of-a-kind immersive sound installation that calls for a different state of mind, pushing the boundaries of formulaic sonic art, and questioning our relation to the world and its contradictions.
Thin black threads shape the space of Starch Gallery in an intriguing web configuration that seems to invade, invite, connect, and divide, all at the same time. But it is its acoustic dimension that is fundamental to the piece: Zul is sculpting a sophisticated auditory landscape that challenges the senses and defies expectations. The work is not openly interactive, but it demands a particular involvement: a decision to accept a new way to interact with the art. There is no cheating possible. The engagement remains personal, almost intimate; it is the fruit of a tacit, yet sincere commitment to the experience. The installation is not silent, but it is so subtly presented that it requires awareness and concentration. Attention is key here: it is the act of listening intently that makes a difference. And this is precisely the point; the artist asks: “How quietly do I have to shout to be heard?”.
By encouraging the visitor to tune into the intricate nuances of sound and find themselves enveloped in a symphony of delicate whispers, Zul weaves together an orchestra of ethereal tones, allowing the audience to engage with their surroundings in a contemplative and profound manner. The interpretation is open, but the title of the work is clear; it will take the participant to a place of reflection and introspection.
What sets Zul apart is his ability to transform seemingly unpretending sounds—indistinct vibrations—into extraordinary experiences. All the meticulously designed components of the installation form a tapestry of sonic artistry, inviting the audience to venture into uncharted territories of perception. Every single detail appears methodically devised and arranged to celebrate the essence of sound, rather than a melodious form of expression.
The soft murmuring hum piques curiosity. It physically reveals the space. It becomes an unusual encounter, one that captivates, resonates, and induces a quality of presence. As a result, the visitor starts an introspective journey into their thoughts, truths, values, and silences.
In Zul’s artwork, the act of being purely attentive redefines the meaning of protest; it transcends the very notion of defiance. The artist’s initial manifesto remains invisible, being converted into an audio signal, but it is distinctly and distinctively translated into auditory sensations.
Paradoxically, Zul’s act of rebellion is the refusal to be openly rebellious: it is his own enlightened stand on disobedience. The message is quiet but speaks volumes. And we are all ears.
Cedric van Eenoo, Ph.D. is an artist, filmmaker, musician, and scholar affiliated with New York Art Center, Brooklyn Arts Council, Manhattan Graphics Center, and New York Filmmakers Cooperative.